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Homeless man 'not vulnerable enough' for Watford Borough Council’s rent deposit scheme
A homeless depression sufferer says he has been told he has been refused a place on Watford Borough Council’s rent deposit scheme as he’s ‘not vulnerable enough’.
Kevin Grant, 39, says he has been dealing with the council for two months and, at times when nobody is able to put him up, he sleeps rough in a tent in the woods.
He says he does not want to live in a hostel as he wants to share custody of his two-year-old daughter, who currently lives with his ex-partner, and be able to provide a home for her.
Despite numerous telephone conversations with council staff and GP letters spelling out how his ‘homelessness would be of considerable concern as it is likely to affect his psychological state’, Mr Grant said he has applied to the council for the rent deposit scheme so he can afford a rent deposit to obtain housing in the private rented sector.
Mr Grant, who was made homeless after splitting up with his partner, said: "I don’t want to live in a hostel - that’s not good enough for my daughter.
"I applied for the rent deposit scheme a few months ago but can’t get on it.
"I’m on medication for my depression and have nowhere to live, but I’m told I’m not vulnerable enough."
A spokesman for Watford Borough Council said: "We cannot comment on individual cases."
Meanwhile, the council’s revenue and benefits service has improved its claims processing times after being placed third from bottom in a national ‘league table’ nearly three years ago.
In December 2010 the council was taking 32 days to process new claims, with changes in circumstances taking 38 days.
The latest figures for the end of July show these figures have been reduced to 14 days and 29 respectively, which is in line with most UK councils.
But Councillor Mark Watkin, who is responsible for revenues and benefits at the council, said: "The figures from December 2010 were dire and they certainly do not reflect the current state of play.
"I wouldn’t say that we are now a gold star performer when it comes to processing claims that are new and are about changes in circumstances, but we are now in a mid-table region.
"It is still taking too long, but we are working very hard to improve the times still further and ensure people get their claims through quicker."
The department has also been taking on agency staff to speed up processing, while the changeover to Universal Credit has yet to be finalised.
In a statement the council said: 'As the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had indicated that Universal Credit would be rolled out nationally from October 2012 and would require fewer staff to handle Housing Benefit claims, it was decided not to employ additional full-time permanent staff to fill any vacancies so avoiding the potential of staff redundancies when Universal Credit is eventually implemented.
'In the absence of any fixed timelines and direction on how local officers will be required to support it from the DWP, we are unable to fully assess the implications until further information is available.’
Cllr Watkin added: "We are caught between a rock and a hard place. We are unsure as to the implications. We’re awaiting Universal Credit.
"In the meantime we have employed agency staff as we can’t take people on permanently if we’re unsure what the future holds for department staff."
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